A well‒preserved hidden castle town, Iwamura, makes you feel warped into Edo era. Strolling around old houses and shops along the tranquil street, you will reach the ruins of the castle on the hill. Photogenic townscapes reveal the quintessence of Japanese beauty with a tragic story of the chatelaine. You also visit Hiroshige Museum of Art that exhibits lots of Ukiyoe prints of Utagawa Hiroshige.
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At your hotel in Nagoya or at the JR Nagoya station
Enjoying the most rural scenic view by local train
Exploring authentic castle town
Hiking to the ruins of Iwamura Castle
Strolling through traditional houses and gardens
Eating local foods such as Gohei-mochi, Udon-noodles and Sake tasting in brewery
Visitting Hiroshige Museum of Ukiyoe-Art
At JR Nagoya station
A one and a half hour local train ride from Nagoya brings you to the old castle town of Iwamura in southeast Gifu. On the way to the town, you will enjoy viewing very simple but calm Japanese rural landscape through the windows of the train (see the video above). Iwamura castle was established in 1185. It is famed for not only magnificent ruins of the castle called 'Asian Machu Pichu', but also the well‒preserved castle town which is listed as one of the Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings by the central government, like Takayama or Tsumago.
The ruins of Iwamura Castle are located at the highest place (717m above sea level) for a castle in Japan and has been selected as one of three major mountain castles in Japan. You should try half an hour hiking up the slope to get fantastic views from the ruins. Some parts of the slope are steep, but most of them are well maintained and partly paved. A tragic story about what happened to a beautiful chatelaine makes you feel sympathy for transiency of human life.
(Tragedy of Chatelaine)
At the end of 16th century,one of Iwamura Castle lords was a woman named Otsuya, who was warring‒time great hero Oda Nobunaga’s aunt. After her husband passed away early, she was reigning the territory by herself with a young adopted son. She was so bright and beautiful that many people liked her. When the town was attacked and under siege by overpowering enemies, she had to choose a political marriage with the opponent’s leader in order to protect her families and her people. Over the next few years, she spent peaceful days along with the new husband. However, she was crucified by her nephew Nobunaga as a traitor in the end. She was a lady Samurai struggling with hardships throughout her life altruistically. Now, blue Noren, shop-front curtains, with the names of proprietresses hang down from eaves. It is evidence that Otsuya is still loved and respected by the townspeople.
(Makes you feel having stepped into a historical drama)
Iwamura town is a little away from the old highway Nakasendo,which has contributed to preserving traditional townscape for long time. The castle town extends over one kilometer long from the station to the foot of the castle‒ruins. You will enjoy strolling around the street, on both sides of which there are various shops, restaurants, shrines etc. Above all, you should drop into some of the old merchants’ houses such as Katsukawa House, Kimura House and Tosaya. All visitors are free to walk through traditionally designed rooms and beautiful Japanese gardens at will. You will be astounded at the unexpected expanse of living space of Japanese traditional buildings with exquisite design.
You will enjoy eating some local foods such as Gohei‒mochi, Udon noodles, Japanese pickles and a variety of sweets. Drinkers can enjoy tasting Sake with a quick excursion to the brewery. Almost all the shops are run by citizens of this town and staff members welcome visitors with their best smiles.
In the End ,on the way back to Nagoya, you will visit Hiroshige Museum of Art in Ena, which houses and exhibits approximately 1,400 Ukiyoe woodblock prints depicting the people and scenery along old highways, Nakasendo and Tokaido. Visitors can not only see them but also have the experience of creating multicolored prints using imitation wood blocks.
8:00 JR Nagoya Station
8:40 JR Ena Station
9:40 Iwamura town
: (strolling towns )
11:40 Iwamura Castle
↓ (strolling towns & lunch)
15:00 Hiroshige Museum of Art
17:30 JR Nagoya Station
guide fee and hotel pick-up
Besides guide fee, you have to prepare about 7000yen/person for both you and guide on the tour day. The details are as follows:transportation fee about 5000yen/person, entrance fee about 1200yen/person,entrance fee about 800yen/person.However, if you you have Japan Rail Pass(JRP), it goes down 4000yen/person except for guide
If you are interested in hiking old highway Nakasendo, it is possible for you to walk a part of the route between Magome and Tsumago after visiting Iwamura town. In that case, you have to skip visitting both the ruins of the castle and Hiroshige Museum. Please feel free to ask to arrange the tour as you want.
We had a very enjoyable 4 hours of hiking in the valley and woods between Magome and Tsumago, or what is known as the Nakasendo trail, with Tetsuji-San. Since the planning stage, Tetsuji answered every question that we had and he suggested route and things to do. He was thorough in his planning. When we met, he gave us brochures and other printed materials about the history of the trail as well as the village, Tsumago, where we will spend a night. Once we arrived at the village where we’d start the walk, he took us to couple of eating places. He encouraged us to try some of the local food. Making sure we had good energy before the walk :). Do try the Gohei-mochi. We had one during our stay in Tsumago. It was delicious and seriously addictive. :) He was knowledgeable and also patient with us during the hiking. Our kids enjoyed to be out and about in nature that they liked to stop frequently to observe some of the things they saw (that was why the 3 hours hiking became almost 4 hours). Throughout the hike he made good effort in explaining about some of the things that we came across and/or the history of the area. He also was able to answer what questions we might have had. A bit of a back story: Few days before our hike, due to June being rainy season in Japan, we monitored the local weather. We got anxious when we learned the local weather bureau predicted that it will be raining and thunderstorm in the area where our hike will be. Even in the morning of the hike, the prediction was still “rain with thunderstorm”. However, with a plan B and lots of preparation, we went ahead and were extremely glad to learn that the only “rain with thunderstorm” that we received during our hike was just a short and very light sprinkle when we arrived at the (Free) Tea House, almost half point of our hike. So, Tetsuji-San’s prediction was better than the Meteorological Agency. Earlier in the morning, he predicted that the rain won’t be as heavy and it would be just a temporary shower but no thunderstorm. He really knows the area well. :) All in all, we were very happy that we had him as our guide for the hike in Nakasendo trail. What a beautiful moment that was! Our family will always cherish our time in Nakasendo trail. Domo arigatou-gozaimasu Tetsuji-San.
I appreciate your excellent review. Yes, the key factor of our tour was the weather. Actually, I had been worried about it considering plan B until the tour started, but we had the best day for walking in the end. I can’t help realizing that you and your family members brought such a fortune for yourselves. I hope you will visit central Japan,especially Gifu, again. I am really looking forward to seeing you.
We did the Magome to Tsugama section of the nakasendo trail tetsuji arrive punctually at the hotel where we stayed to meet us and the meat are we to magome efficiently and quickly without any delays and extremely comfortable SB decided to choose riding reserved seats in the train. Also he advised a taxi from the train station to the start point so as to not wait more than 20 minutes for the next bus. It was good advise as we had lots more time to enjoy the trek. He was informative and made great attempt to answer our questions! Some perhaps too botanical! He recommended a few local snacks which were delightful and ended with coffee before returning to Nagoya. He spent 9 hours with us and returned to Nagoya with us where we parted ways. All together we had a very pleasant day and were blessed with excellent weather!
Thank you for quick review. I am so relieved to know that you are satisfied with my tour and guiding. Actually, I enjoyed myself walking through pleasant communication with you and your wife.I have also noticed that I should have lots of subjects to study and prepare for guests. I repeatedly thank you again and look forward to seeing you again.
Tetsuji is great guided tours. He took us to wonderful places and a good restaurant. I recommend him very much Gil
Thank you for the quickest review. I am grateful for your good words. I hope you will stay happy and fit. Thank you again and take care.
Very happy to tour with Tetsuji-san! We arranged a visit to Mino for traditional Washi (paper) crafts, as well as Seki for the Sword museum and a knife making factory tour. In addition to planning a great day in Mino & Seki, he helped keep us on schedule with trains, arranged a delicious lunch, and did a great job of answering our questions. After the trip, Tetsuji was kind enough to send us pictures he had taken of us during the day to help with the memory book of our vacation. Excellent communication during pre-trip planning, as well as during the day of our trip. It was such a relief to have Tetsuji with us in these areas of Japan less traveled by tourists. Highly recommended!
Thank you so much for your great review, Charlene. I am happy to have known that you and Kyle seemed to have enjoyed realizing some Japanese culture throughout my guided tour. I hope you will visit Japan again and spend some happy time with me someday.